CFC Elects Priorities for a Better Arkansas
A record crowd elected new priorities for the Arkansas Citizens First Congress at its 9th Legislative Convention.
“I could just feel all the energy in the room,” said delegate Demetria Taylor. “It is a group of diverse people coming together, and I feel like it was one voice united.”
Taylor was one of nearly 150 delegates from 61 member organizations who attended the convention. For the first time, each issue that was nominated was elected to the 10 Priorities for a Better Arkansas.
“We made history today,” said CFC Co-Chair William El-Amin on the final day of the June convention. “The priorities that were elected were very well thought out. The groups did the research, made a convincing argument on why we need them, and I think that’s going to spill over into the legislative session when we start fighting for those resolutions.”
The convention is modeled on Arkansas’ legislative process to help people understand how bills are passed at the Capitol.
Member organizations bring proposals to their caucuses to have a discussion, debate and elect priorities to recommend to the full convention.
“At the end of the day the cream rises to the top,” said CFC Co-Chair Mark Robertson. “Good proposals come out and then the organization as a whole discusses and prioritizes the recommendations.”
The CFC elected two new long-term priorities, one to implement the state water plan, and the other to address the growing mass incarceration crisis in our state. The five short-term priorities elected are fair housing reform, addressing teen pregnancy, gender pay equity, stopping wage theft, and poultry worker safety.
In addition, attendees reaffirmed three long term priorities: supporting energy efficiency and renewable energy, education reform, and a fair budget and tax code.
“I’m excited about the wide range of issues and finding common ground and interests across such a broad cross section of the state wanting to work on each other’s issues,” Robertson said. “The CFC’s the one organization in the state that really is a coalition of very diverse interests. If you look out across our membership this year, it’s a real slice of what Arkansas is.”
The weekend provided an opportunity to celebrate those differences, and gave attendees a chance to lobby for their particular issues, share solutions, develop strategy and build relationships with people from across the state. The collaboration increases pressure for lawmakers to prioritize the needs of Arkansas families over special interest groups.
“We have critical issues in Arkansas and it’s easy to get disenfranchised when you don’t come together in a setting like this,” said delegate Chris McNamara. “The focus was on taking action and promoting love and cooperation and those are the things that keep you motivated. It’s definitely the relationships that we build that makes this group strong.”
McNamara is a part of the Arkansas Citizens’ Climate Lobby, which helped elect long term support for energy efficiency programs and carbon reduction policies to the CFC priority list in 2014. He worked in the environmental caucus, which pushed to make implementation of the Arkansas Water Plan a new priority.
The legislative session starts in January, and advocates are building their priority issue campaigns and contacting lawmakers now to build support. Visit www.citizensfirst.org for a detailed look at each issue and find out how to get involved.